Meet your customer expectations. What are your customers trying to get done?

source: freepik

According to researches, around 72% of new products don’t meet customer expectations.

Wait, how is it possible at the time when we think we know almost everything about our customers and how to talk to them?

First of all, probably, our confidence loses us too fast, and the second one, we think about the solution too quickly. Right, we have data we know that it is crucial to use numbers nowadays, but it still is standard to forget that everything is about context, how we interpret our data, and how we are framing our discussion with clients. Correlation doesn’t mean causation.

To illustrate this, let’s take a look at one of the famous marketing case studies, which is “Milkshake Marketing” created by Clay Christiansen some time ago.

He used and described the “Job To Be Done” theory. Clue of this theory is just a simple question — “What job your product is hired to do”? Mostly, people buy services and products to get specific jobs done. This is a commonly used example, but helps this idea to be precise — people don’t want a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole.

Got it? Great, let’s jump to Christiansen’s case.

He describes how McDonald’s wanted to increase milkshake sales and conducted focus group campaign asking potential customers what they would want in new milkshakes.
In the beginning, a team of marketing specialist create clients persona and invite people who meet the criteria for an interview. They were asked what Macdonalds should do to make them buy more. Researchers collect a lot of information, opinion, and advices. After that, they changed the milkshake to match that feedback, and guess what happened?

Yes, you are right. Nothing. Sales results remained the same.
So, what went wrong?

They were assuming that the proper solution would be something like a change of flavor, and it would increase sales. Based on their customer opinion. (Because, listen to your clients, right?)

Christiansen’s team took a different approach. They decided that they have to understand the reason why people buy a milkshake. They decided to observe and analyze what they see.
One team member stood in a McDonald’s restaurant for 18 hours one day and just took meticulous notes like:

  • Time of milkshake’s purchase
  • What was a person wearing
  • Was that person alone or with other people
  • Did that person buy other food with it, or just the milkshake
  • Did that person eat in the restaurant, or did that person go off to a car and take it off?

And so many questions like that.

It turned out that about half of the milkshakes were sold before 8:30 in the morning, they were always alone, and they always got in the car and drove off with it. Besides that, observations didn’t say anything.
They came again the next morning and positioned themselves outside the restaurant so that they could confront these people as they were emerging with their milkshakes.
They asked people: Excuse me, you are creating real trouble for me. Can you explain what job arose in your life that caused you to come here at 6:30 morning to hire the milkshake?

What is the job to be done here? What the customer hopes to accomplish?

They were struggling to answer why they came at 6:30. Christiansen’s team asked them: “Ok, step back a minute, and think about the last situation you had the same situation, but you didn’t come here to buy a milkshake from Mcdonalds.”

There were a lot of answers like:

  • “Yeah, I hire donuts to do the job, but I can never hire just one.”
  • “I do bagels, but they are dry, and they are tasteless, so I have to put cream cheese on and steer the car with my knees while I’m putting cream cheese on.
  • I hired a snickers bar to do this job, but I felt so guilty, I’ve never hired snickers again.
  • “You know, I never thought about it before, but last Friday, I hired a banana to do the job. But it doesn’t do the job very well at all. You finish it in less than a minute. But let me tell you, when I go to McDonald’s, it takes me about 23 minutes to suck it up that thin little straw. I don’t care what the ingredients are. All I know is when 10 o’clock comes, I’m still full.”

What I want to show you, the job that all of these people were trying to get done, was: “I have a long and boring drive to work, and I needed something that would just keep me engaged while I’m driving a car. I’m not hungry yet. But I know I will be hungry by 10 o’clock.”
Also, a part of this job is “I need something to eat that would keep myself full when 10 o’clock happens.”

That’s the job that they are hiring the milkshake to do.

When you think about how big the job is, you have to look at who the real competitors are from the customer’s point of view. They come from very different categories. Think about that — How big is the market for milkshakes? Well, who knows. But the size of the milkshake just isn’t the sum of the milkshakes at Burger King, KFC, and McDonald’s milkshakes.

From the customer’s point of view, the milkshake does the job better than any of the competitors. Milkshakes were not competing against Burger King’s or KFC milkshakes. They were competing against bananas, snickers, donuts, or even bagels. When McDonald’s understood that they were competing not against KFC or BK, and it’s not necessary to change flavors, package, etc., but they compete against bananas and bagels. The sales of the milkshakes turned out and were seven times bigger than they had thought.

Most marketers are characterized that way. There is a lot of misconception. You can understand how to improve it only if you can understand the job to be done. In this case, McDonald’s created a marketing program based on this insight to increase sales, but the same process you can apply to how you are thinking about building a product.

Best products are designed using this method. Even if it was unconscious. When buying a product, we’re mainly “hiring” it to help us do a specific job. If the product does the job well, we tend to hire that product over again when we confront the same job. On the other hand, if it does a crappy job, we “fire” it and look for a replacement.

Think about how to design or redesign your business around Job To Be Done theory. Try to understand where customers struggle today to execute the Job To Be Done. It will show you what a particular product needs to do in the future to win in that market.

This is a simple framework to think about framing your conversation with customers, what is important, think in terms of job, pains, and gains.

  • Jobs are what your customers need to accomplish, such as specific tasks or needs they want to satisfy
  • Pains are what your customers want to avoid, such as risky negative emotions or costs.
  • Gains are positive outcomes your customers are hoping for, such as functional utility, positive emotions, or even cost savings.

These translate to the following questions:

  • What are they trying to get done?
  • What are their biggest pains preventing them from getting that job done?
  • What are the biggest gains they are looking for after doing the job?

Users, customers, and clients are experts in their jobs, pains, and gains, not the experts of the solutions.

In the fast-food chain’s case, many of the milkshake drinkers were looking for relief from their pain of getting through a difficult commute. By framing their approach and questions correctly, Christiansen’s team found a solution that created a real impact.